ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan carried a 2-1 lead over Ohio State into the third period at Yost Arena Saturday.
Then, the fun started.
In one of the most exciting scoreless periods one could ever witness, the Wolverines held on through the game’s final 20 minutes in front of a season-high home crowd of 6,900 to post their second win over the Buckeyes in two nights by the 2-1 margin that stood at the end of two periods.
The third period was just over two minutes old when Wolverines forward Chris Brown received a five-minute major and game misconduct for checking from behind.
Michigan’s penalty killers went to work and stymied the Ohio State power play in the game’s key sequence. The game’s remaining 13 minutes were highlighted by end-to-end rushes, great goaltending at both ends of the ice, and frantic final seconds when the Buckeyes pulled netminder Cal Heeter for an extra attacker and did everything but score the equalizing goal.
Heeter and Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick may have only made six and five saves, respectively, in the final period, but each of those 11 saves was critical to the game’s outcome.
“Without Cal, that game is out of hand before the first period is even over,” observed Ohio State forward Cory Schneider, whose short-handed goal in the second period brought the Buckeyes to life. “He’s had some outstanding games for us. He’s been consistently good all season long for us. It’s tough to pick out a best game for him, but he was definitely our best player tonight”
All told, Heeter stopped 30 Michigan shots in the game and Hunwick turned aside 22 Buckeyes attempts.
“I thought the fact that we kept getting the puck out of our zone (was key),” said Michigan coach Red Berenson of the five-minute penalty kill in the third period. “When you’re killing a penalty and the other team keeps it in, your penalty killers are totally faitgued and they can’t move, compete or win any battles, and the power play takes over. That all just never happened. We cleared the puck really well. Even Hunwick cleared it once or twice. We got the puck out and we were able to change and be fresh.”
Of the crucial penalty kill, Hunwick said, “On the penalty kill (during the five minute major), I don’t think they had a shot. Down the stretch, they were all over us, but it’s good for our team to pull it out.”
Michigan opened the scoring in the game midway through the first period.
Wolverines forward A.J. Treais pulled the puck out of a scrum in the corner of the Michigan defensive zone and carried it the length of the ice. Treais spotted Luke Moffatt free in front of the Buckeyes net and slid the puck across to him. Moffatt beat Heeter high stick side with a backhand at 10:39 for the opening period’s only goal, even though the Wolverines held a 17-7 edge in shots in the period.
The teams traded second period goals, Michigan scoring first early in the period and Ohio State answering late in the period with a short-handed tally.
At 1:20, Michigan captain Carl Hagelin circled behind the Buckeyes net to the left corner, from where he flipped a centering pass to Brown, who tipped the pass by Heeter. It marked the third time in the series that the Wolverines had scored on their first shot of the period.
Momentum turned in the Buckeyes favor late in the period when Schneider skated alone from his own blue line while short-handed and found an opening high past Hunwick at 15:21.
“At that point it was 2-0,” said Schneider. “Obviously, it cut the lead in half. It got a little momentum going our way. It was good for us to finally get on the board. It was unfortunate we couldn’t get another bounce and get one in the net.”
The third period excitement then ensued.
“You saw what I saw,” Berenson said. “Maybe a little different game tonight. We had a much better start. It’s important to get the first goal. I didn’t think we were capitalizing on our best chances. I thought Heeter gave them a great game in goal.
“Then, when they scored their short-handed goal, the momentum started to shift. They could have tied it up on another short-handed chance, but they didn’t, so we were lucky. Our goalie was a factor in this game. It was a close game.”
A disappointed Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki judged that his team opened “not very well. I think in the second and third period we played better, but the hard thing, it’s very disappointing how (there are) 11 upperclassmen in the lineup and you come out with a start like that.”
“I think it’s just great for our team to win close games like this,” said Hagelin “It always gives the team some extra energy for next week and also confidence. Obviously, that penalty kill at the end was key. Hunwick made some key saves. Overall, a good weekend. We played better today than yesterday.”
The Buckeyes (14-16-2, 9-13-2-2 CCHA) close out their regular season campaign with an upcoming pair of weekend home series against Lake Superior State and Ferris State.
Michigan (19-9-4, 16-7-1-0 CCHA) returns to action next weekend hosting Western Michigan for a pair of game before journeying north to Marquette for a final series at Northern Michigan.